By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
64 games have come and gone in the 2010-2011 NHL season, and the Boston Bruins seem to be gaining momentum as they’ve set their sights on the post-season.
With the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly, and Rich Peverley, general manager Peter Chiarelli announced to the league that Boston considers themselves “all in” for a lengthy playoff run. The Philly-meltdown no doubt still in the forefront of their minds, the Bruins brass addressed the only areas of the depth chart that have shown any signs of vulnerability.
Last year, depth at the center position turned out to be Boston’s Achilles’ heel after losing David Krejci in Game 3 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After once again losing Marc Savard for the season, and with Tyler Seguin having not yet developed into a dependable centerman, Boston added two centers who can also play on the wing in Kelly and Peverley.
Looking back to the Carolina-Boston series of 2009, it’s easy to see why the Hurricanes defeated the Bruins. Boston’s defensemen could not get separation in their own end, and failed to connect on crucial first passes out of their own defensive zone. So with the B’s “blockbuster” trade of this season, Chiarelli was finally able to get Tomas Kaberle to don the black and gold, putting an end to the organization’s quest for a “puck-moving defenseman”.
In between all of this, “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy returned to Boston signing a one-year deal, adding even more depth to the blue line.
With that, the Bruins roster is set, and if their 39-year Stanley Cup drought is going to come to an end this year, these will be the players that do it.
Of course, there’s still the small matter of 18 regular season games, followed by round after round of unfriendly combatants who will be more than happy to bring Boston’s season to a disappointing conclusion.
Winners of seven straight, sitting atop the Northeast Division, and just three points behind first place in the Eastern Conference, Boston will have to fight complacency along with the usual fatigue that accompanies this time of year as the season winds down. With teams jousting for favorable playoff positions, the Bruins don’t want to find themselves any lower in the standings than they are right now.
But it’s hard not to look ahead.
As the weather begins to change, and the ice on the street begins to thaw, memories of promising what-could-have-been’s begin to add to the anticipation of the NHL playoffs. But in recent years, those memories are tinged with disappointment.
To his credit, Chiarelli has assembled a team with more depth than any Boston squad in recent memory. The core members of this Bruins team have gained invaluable playoff experiences in the last few years, and they’ve seemed to pick up a few tricks along the way. The young guns have paced themselves very well in the regular season, surely looking to avoid the kind of burnout that sealed the fate of their 2008-2009 predecessors.
If there’s one thing the Bruins have to remember, it’s that nothing has been won yet. No memorable regular season can make up for post-season disappointments (just ask the 2007 New England Patriots). In the records books, it will look like just another year unless they end it the way they hope to.
The window of opportunity is open for Boston. The pieces seem to be there, the chemistry seems to be there, the skill, toughness, and ability all seem to be in place. But a team’s true identity is formed in the playoffs. This Bruins squad seems to know this, and you can’t help but feel like it will be a fun Spring on Causeway Street.
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